A veteran New York political consultant who raised funds for Mayor Adams’ 2021 campaign has been hired to solicit cash for his legal defense trust, which will accept donations from anyone, including reputable individuals affiliated with Turkish groups, the mayor said Tuesday.
The legal defense fund’s hire of Michael Giaccio, who runs political consulting firm Bedford Grove, comes as the FBI continues to investigate allegations the Turkish government pumped illegal foreign money into Adams’ 2021 campaign coffers via straw donors.
Adams, who has not been publicly accused of wrongdoing in the federal probe, confirmed at a City Hall briefing Tuesday afternoon that Giaccio, without immediately naming him, is already at work soliciting money for the fund. Evan Thies, an adviser to Adams, later confirmed Giaccio as the person referenced by the mayor as spearheading the fund, which he established last month to raise cash to cover any legal expenses incurred as part of the FBI investigation.
Giaccio did not return a request for comment after Adams’ briefing.
Giaccio has worked in New York politics for decades, raising money for well-known politicos, including former Mayor Bill de Blasio, State Attorney General Letitia James, State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and ex-Govs. Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson.
In 2021, Giaccio’s firm was paid $46,257 to do consulting work for Adams’ successful first mayoral run, city Campaign Finance Board records show. The firm was then paid another $20,000 for consulting for Adams’ 2021 transition committee, the records reveal.
According to a source directly familiar with the matter, Giaccio’s roles on the campaign and transition committee were focused on raising funds from donors to both entities after Adams’ victory in the June 2021 mayoral primary. A person who played a similar role on Adams’ campaign and transition was Brianna Suggs, a longtime aide to the mayor whose Brooklyn home was raided by the FBI last month as part of the Turkey investigation.
Among other matters, the FBI is scrutinizing a set of May 2021 donations to Adams’ campaign from employees of KSK Construction, a Brooklyn contractor owned by Turkish nationals, sources familiar with the matter have said. A half dozen September 2021 donations to Adams’ campaign from employees of Bay Atlantic University, a Turkish-owned educational institution in Washington, D.C., are also being eyed by the feds, as is the mayor’s history of traveling to Turkey, as first reported by the Daily News.
In addition to raiding Suggs’ pad, FBI agents last month seized Adams’ cell phones and searched the homes of City Hall aide Rana Abbasova and Cenk Öcal, a former Turkish Airlines executive who served on the mayor’s transition committee.
At Tuesday’s briefing, Adams was asked if he’ll refrain from accepting contributions to his legal defense fund from Turkish nationals or individuals affiliated with Turkish groups and companies, given the focus of the FBI probe.
“All legal contributions that do not have any improper or unethical connections, we are going to accept,” the mayor replied. He added he’s proud of his “relationship with the international community of this city.”
Amid continued fallout from the FBI investigation, Adams and Fabien Levy, his deputy mayor of communications, said over the weekend that “political opportunists” are using the probe to “spread lies” in an attempt to “tear down the city’s second Black mayor.” In a statement, Levy said some of the mud-slinging is playing out in “a court of law.”
Asked Tuesday to elaborate on those statements, Adams said he and Levy were not referring to the federal prosecutors investigating his 2021 campaign.
Adams would not clarify who he was referring to, but reiterated his belief that there’s a racial component to the alleged political attacks against him.
“There’s something interesting here: ‘Who is this Black guy that enjoys global travel? Why are you going all over the globe, Eric?’” he said. “If I went to Bermuda eight times, I don’t think anyone would have a problem with it … but when you look at my passport and you see that it’s unfortunate I was a little boy that had a dream of traveling the globe, and I’m living out that dream.”
Doug Muzzio, a retired Baruch College political science professor, said Adams’ focus on his race in the context of the federal probe is a “logical political move,” but questioned the accuracy of the claim.
“It seems to me it’s not because he’s Black. There may be an element of racism at play, but that’s not the dominant factor,” Muzzio said.
Basil Smikle, a Democratic strategist who served as the manager of Ray McGuire’s 2021 mayoral campaign, suggested part of the reason for Adams’ focus on race could be that it’s still not entirely clear what the FBI is looking into as it relates to wrongdoing by him or his campaign. “There’s really no ability for him to push back [on the details of the investigation],” he said.
Smikle, who’s Black, said there could be a political risk in overemphasizing questions of race, though.
“The question is: How much political capital do you use simply because people don’t think you’re trustworthy?” he said.